These Spicy Chicken Tenders are ridiculously delicious! Chicken strips marinated in buttermilk and hot sauce, then deep fried for extra crispiness. Need I say more?
I mean we could totally just leave it at that, but I guess you’re gonna need some sort of recipe right? Well, without further ado, let’s get straight into it…
These are perfect as a side dish, or even as just finger food with a dip. Heck – do we really need an excuse to whip up a batch of crispy tenders?!
Ideally you want actual chicken tenders. They are, as the name suggests, ever so slightly more tender than the breast itself. If you can’t get your hands on chicken tenders, you can dice up chicken breast into strips which works just as well!
The first step to getting juicy tenders is marinating them. Follow me…
Buttermilk Chicken Tenders
Like all good fried chicken recipes, these bad boys start with a buttermilk marinade. Buttermilk is great for a few reasons. Firstly, it allows you to easily coat the chicken with flour (unlike eggs which are far more likely to go clumpy). Secondly, it’s slightly acidic, meaning it penetrates and tenderises the chicken as it marinates. Because who doesn’t want tender chicken tenders?
I can’t find buttermilk, what can I substitute?
One sub you could use is yogurt (for acidity) thinned out with a little milk (to help texture for dredging). You could also add acidity to milk (white vinegar, lemon juice) and let it rest, then mix and use as a marinade.
Spicy Chicken Marinade
The marinade itself is really simple. You just need buttermilk, hot sauce, salt and white pepper.
How long to marinate for?
Ideally you’re looking for a minimum of 2 hours, with best results leaving over night. As long as you have time for though, even 30mins is better than no marinating!
Process shots: add buttermilk, hot sauce, salt & pepper to a bowl (photo 1), stir then add tenders (photo 2), combine then cover and marinate (photo 3).
Spicy Chicken Breading
Okay, so we’ve got a nice kick of spice from the hot sauce in the marinade, now let’s talk flour breading. The main heat here comes from cayenne pepper. Alongside onion & garlic powder and paprika, these tenders result in a gorgeous burst of flavour.
One of the key ingredients in the dredging mix is baking powder. When this hits the oil it causes a reaction, which in turn causes lots of tiny bubbles. This is what gives you that crispy, airy batter!
Process shots: Add flour and spices to a tray or bowl (photo 1), combine until fully blended (photo 2), add one chicken strip at a time (photo 3), fully coat, ensuring you cover every spec of the chicken (photo 4), rest on a wire rack until ready to deep fry (photo 5).
Deep Fried Chicken Tenders
Unfortunately/fortunately (which ever way you look at it) to get the true KFC style crispy chicken, it’s deep frying all the way.
Hey, nobody said these were healthy 😂
Best Oil to use?
You want an oil that a) has a neutral flavour and b) has a high smoking point. Vegetable and sunflower work great. Olive oil is NOT suitable.
What temp to fry at?
You want to get the oil to around 350F/175C. The temp is likely to drop when the chicken hits the oil, and that’s fine, just maintain the heat.
Serving Spicy Chicken Tenders
Okay, let’s tuck into the full recipe for these Spicy Chicken Tenders recipe shall we!?
How to make Spicy Chicken Tenders (Full Recipe & Video)
Spicy Fried Chicken Tenders
- Suitably Sized Pot (for deep frying)
- Shallow bowl or Curved Tray (for dredging)
- Large Mixing Bowl & Cling Film (for marinating)
- Kitchen Thermometer
- Cooling Wrap & Paper Towels
Ingredients (check list):
- 1.3lb / 600g Chicken Tenders (see notes)
- 3-4 cups / 750ml - 1 litre Vegetable Oil (see notes)
- 1 cup / 250ml Buttermilk (see notes)
- 1/4 cup / 60ml Hot Sauce (I use Frank's)
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp White Pepper
- 1 3/4 cups / 250g Plain Flour
- 2 tsp Paprika
- 1.5 tsp Cayenne Pepper
- 1 tsp EACH: Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Baking Powder, Salt
- Combine chicken with the buttermilk, hot sauce, salt and white pepper. Cover and place in the fridge for as long as you have time for. Preferably overnight, absolute minimum 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, in a shallow dish or curved tray combine flour, cayenne pepper, baking powder, paprika, onion & garlic powder and salt. One by one, coat your chicken strips in the dry mix, making sure you cover every spec of chicken. Press the mix right into the chicken so it goes nice and flaky. Place on a wire wrack and repeat.
- Heat up your oil to around 350F/175C. To test without a thermometer, drop a tiny piece of batter in the oil, if it very slowly rises to the top, you should be good to go. A medium heat for around 8-10 minutes should obtain this. The temp will slightly drop when the chicken hits, which is fine, just maintain that heat (no lower than 320F/160C).
- Working in batches of 3-4, carefully place your strips into the oil. Separate them with tongs if the instantly stick together, then leaves for 3-4mins until they start turning golden. Flip over and leave for another few minutes until deep golden and visibly crispy. If your oil is too hot simply pour in more oil/turn down heat. If you're not confident with deep frying then test one strip first.
- Place on a wire rack with a tray or paper towel underneath. Enjoy with a dip or as a side!
Quick 1 min demo!
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